General Memory Formation and Contents

It’s common knowledge a general memory is formed and shaped experience by experience. For example, the memory “apple” is formed via a set of past apple experiences. “Me eating AN apple” is formed from a set of “I ate THAT apple” experiences.

A general memory represents a range of similar experience. For example, consider the general memory “me eating an apple.” There are many ways to behave in relation to an apple that fall under this category. In other words there are many ways to eat an apple.

General memories are formed not only from experience, but from its episodic memory. An episodic memory I see as the ability of mind and brain to re-activate (the information content of) a single experience as it occurred through space and time.

The brain continually copies experience to episodic memory. One’s experience during the last 5 seconds can be recalled at any time. At the very least the gist can be remembered. For example, one might remember that for the past 5 seconds, “I was standing at my desk, looking out the window toward the ocean, feeling relaxed, deep in thought.”

Where is human experience stored, and later recalled from? The most obvious location is the brain. Where else would the memory of it reside? The brain automatically converts experience to episodic memory — especially our most salient and attended to experience.

General memory is built from a set of similar episodic memories, and from the immediate experience itself. The INFORMATION of experience becomes that of general memory. The memory “I catch a baseball” is built from past baseball-catching experiences + the episodic memory of each. “I catch a baseball” is formed and shaped, experience by experience.

All general memories have contents which are definable. These are derived from the events which occur in one’s visual field, including one’s body at its center. General memory contents = that of one’s “field of experience.”

For example, “a cell phone” refers to a range of phone experiences (various types, shapes/sized/colors, actions etc.). “My phone” is built from a set of past perceptions, meaning, thoughts, feelings etc. — of that particular phone. “Write a text” refers to a set of similar hand & finger movements, plus thinking and word formation. “Rapidly” represents a set of fast and quick behavior. A general memory = a range of similar experience.

In other words, a set of similar experiences — if they are common and powerful enough — will form a general memory. Perceiving a car might invoke the formation of a “that car speeding by” memory. This memory is made from a repeated (second by second, etc.) experience of seeing it. Seeing many cars causes a more general “car” memory to form. The same goes for its sub-memories: “car shape,” “car motor sound,” “cost of a car,” “how I feel about cars,” etc.

Why is it important to understand general memory? Because, according to the MA (Memory Activation) Framework, 95% of the mind/brain system runs on it. General memory is I argue the critical missing piece with which to understand mind AND brain. Not from a personal growth perspective, but from an engineering/how-do-the-mechanics-of-the-system-work perspective.

That human memories have contents based on experience is common knowledge. The only group of people who might struggle with this concept, ironically, are brain scientists. Not because they aren’t smart, talented, hard-working, and doing excellent work. But because they are laboring under the wrong cognitive neuroscience paradigm. The brain’s fundamental mechanism is not the “processing” or “computing” of one’s (external & internal) world. What the brain does is copy experience to episodic memory, and use the contents of both to form general memories. These, when active, in turn create meaning, movement, and most of the mind.

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